You may hear that the terms “anxiety disorder” and “panic disorder” are used interchangeably, which is understandable because they have some common symptoms. However, in practice, panic and anxiety have different characteristics, and behavioral health professionals use these terms to describe specific symptoms and disorders.
A panic attack is a sudden intense fear or discomfort, accompanied by other physical and mental symptoms. On the other hand, anxiety is part of the body’s inherent emotional and protective responses. When anxiety is excessive or hinders your daily life, you need to worry.
This article discusses the differences between anxiety and panic, including their definitions, symptoms, and treatments.
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Professionals who treat mental health conditions diagnose according to the criteria in the diagnostic criteria Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition), Called DSM-5. Although anxiety and panic attacks may feel similar, the differences outlined in the DSM help to identify and distinguish them. The definitions and diagnostic criteria in DSM-5 guide healthcare providers to diagnose and classify your condition.
The difference between panic and anxiety is best described in terms of the intensity of symptoms and the length of time the main symptoms appear. Panic attacks usually peak in about 10 minutes, while anxiety can last for several months.
Panic attacks are mainly related to conditions called panic disorder, although they may also occur with other mental illnesses. If you do not have a disease, a panic attack may also occur.
They differ from anxiety in that they are accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Feeling out of the world (realization)
- Separation from self (depersonalization)
- Fear of death or loss of control
On the other hand, the term “anxiety disorder” is not defined in DSM-5. Instead, “anxiety” is used to describe the core characteristics of several diseases identified under the headings of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and trauma and stress-related diseases.
The difference between anxiety and panic attack is that it includes symptoms such as worries and worries, but does not have the extreme fear and detachment that occur during a panic attack.
Some of the most common diseases under these three headings include:
A panic attack is a strong and sudden feeling of fear, fear, or discomfort, accompanied by several other mental and physical symptoms. The symptoms of a panic attack are often so severe that they can cause serious damage. According to DSM-5, panic attacks are characterized by the following four or more symptoms.
- Feeling unreal (de-realization)
- Feeling separated from oneself (depersonalization)
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- fear death
- Chest pain
- Excessive sweating
- Feeling of suffocation
- Feeling dizzy, unstable, dizzy, or fainting
- Palpitations, rapid heartbeat, or increased heart rate
- Hot flashes
- Nausea or abdominal discomfort
- Numbness or tingling (paresthesia)
- Trembling or trembling
- Feeling of shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
Panic attacks usually happen suddenly, with no obvious direct triggers. However, in some cases, they are “expected” because fear is caused by known stressors, such as phobias.
The panic attack symptoms peaked within 10 minutes and then subsided. However, some attacks may last longer or may occur continuously, so it is difficult to determine when one attack ends and when another attack begins. After being attacked, it is not uncommon to feel stressed, worried, confused, or nervous for the rest of the day.
In contrast, anxiety usually intensifies over a period of time and is highly correlated with excessive worry about certain potential dangers (whether real or perceived). If the expectation of something gradually increases and the amount of pressure becomes unbearable, it may feel like an “attack.” Symptoms of anxiety may include the following.
- sleep disorder
- Increased heart rate
- Increase startle response
- Muscle tension
Although some symptoms of anxiety are similar to those associated with panic attacks, they are usually not as strong. Unlike panic attacks, symptoms of anxiety can be persistent and lasting for a long time—days, weeks, or even months.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions and is estimated to affect 19.1% of American adults each year. Although anxiety can have a major impact on a person’s life, only about 20% of people with symptoms seek treatment.
Effective treatments can be used to improve results and well-being, so if you have symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks, be sure to consult a doctor. Because women are twice as likely to experience anxiety symptoms as men, the Women’s Preventive Services Initiative now recommends that all women over the age of 13 be screened for anxiety.
During the evaluation, the doctor will take a medical history, conduct a physical examination, and possibly perform laboratory tests to help rule out any diseases that may cause you to develop symptoms.
The doctor or mental health professional will also ask questions about your symptoms, including their intensity, duration, and impact on your normal daily functions. Based on your assessment, they may make a diagnosis based on the criteria in DSM-5.
Anxiety is a very common mental health condition that affects millions of Americans every year. Doctors often use screening tools to check for symptoms of anxiety. Diagnosing anxiety or panic attacks involves assessing the impact, duration, and severity of a person’s symptoms.
Treat panic and anxiety
Whether you are dealing with panic, persistent anxiety, or both, there are effective treatments available. Some of the most common treatment options include treatment, prescription drugs, and self-help strategies. You can decide to try one or a combination of these methods.
- Psychotherapy can help you better understand your symptoms, develop ways to manage them, overcome past pains, determine your future path, and gain a clearer perspective so that your prospects are more promising.
- Medications can help you reduce your symptoms. When you develop other long-term strategies, you may only need to control symptoms in a short period of time.
- Self-help techniques, such as breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation, can also help you manage symptoms at your own pace.
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Anxiety and panic attacks may disrupt your daily life. Whether you or your friends or relatives have experienced this, they know that they can help. Discussing your symptoms with your doctor is the first step in seeking relief.